If you’ve read the “Firenze Fashion” blog then you ‘ll have met Stan Shaw, for those of you that haven’t, or couldn’t be bothered, Stan worked at the Hartford at the same time as I did, he was their “Marine Insurance” expert/specialist.
Towards the end of 1957 Stan came round to see me tucked up in my bottom right hand corner of the “Claims Dept”, he told me to expect a phone call from a Mr Bucknell which would probably invite me around for a cup of tea.
I’d never heard of Mr Bucknell, but I told Stan okay I’d go, he suggested I take a claim file with me. This is what we did, if we wanted to slip out for a while, stick a couple of claim files under your arm, and call out that you’d be back in half hour, or hour whatever.
Sometimes Bob Moss would come over tell me to grab a file, and come with him, as there was something to discuss, which meant he felt like a beer, and we’d pop along to the corner pub and have a glass or two, (in the 50’s a glass of beer in Melbourne, and all over Victoria for that matter, was a 7 oz. glass so it wasn’t really a lot, not like the Pom’s a glass to them usually means a pint).
Anyway a few minutes later I got a call from this Mr Bucknell, and got the invite for a cup of tea and a chat, he was a well spoken man; had a voice a bit like Valentine Dyall “The Man in Black” an old BBC radio program I used to listen to in England, long before TV came along to ruin our lives.
I’ll bet that everyone who’s ever seen a 007 movie has heard his voice at some stage, I don’t think he appeared just did some voice overs, he also appeared on the “Goon Show”. Look him up in Wikipedia, a lot about him which will surprise you; you can’t expect or rely on me to do all the work.
Not knowing who or what he was, I had to ask him where I had to go to, which seemed to surprise him, and he told me to come to Harvey Trinder (Vic) Pty Ltd at an address in Collins Street, which happened to be a bit round the corner from William Street, where I was; and could I come as soon as possible.
I told him yes, I’d be right round, I was pretty curious by this time; so grabbing a file I called out that I’d be back in a while. Nobody took any notice and off I trotted.
What a great old building in Collins Street, I doubt it’s there now, it must have been built at the end of the 19th century; and the lift, there was only the one, was the original.
I’d never seen or even heard of this type of lift (elevator should any Yankee cousin be reading this) it was operated by pulling on a rope, this allowed water from the Yarra (and that’s salt water) to raise or lower the lift,
It could only take 3 or 4 passengers and the operator, it wasn’t that it wasn’t strong, it was just very, very small.
A hydro lift I suppose it was, and it ran on sea water. Fascinating! The lift operator; wasn’t a driver, was an old bloke with shocking arthritis in his hands; I’d never seen any as bad before or since. He could manage to pull on the rope, but everybody who rode the lift did it themselves, just for the fun of it;
Old Fred didn’t mind one bit. He was pretty old, and probably came with the building when it was built.
Done it again; back to Mr Bucknell. He was a tall distinguished man would have been quite at home in an English Gentleman’s club, which he probably did from time to time.
Harvey Trinder’s were a very large, very honourable, established firm of insurance brokers for Lloyd’s of London, and HT (Vic) was an Australian offshoot. Actually there were two Australian offshoot groups, the northern of N.S.W. Queensland & New Guinea and the southern, Victoria, Tassie, South & West Australia.
The northern group fell into disgrace but that’s another story
The southern group was controlled by three men, Messrs Forsaith, Bucknell & Liggins (they later went on to form their own insurance company FBL Insurance nothing to do with the current FBL: a search of Wikipedia throws up less about FBL than it does of me – under my pseudonyms naturally).
I’ll tell you what, this is turning into a long cup of tea.
The pot of tea appeared, and Mr Bucknell’s secretary poured, and then he got right to the point, no messing about he just said something like ” I’ve heard good things about you, and I’d like you to come and work for me” I was stunned, at a loss I had no idea who he’d been talking to, and who would know anything about me.
I was dazed, he went on and told me that he was prepared to pay me well, he never asked how much I was earning; which I thought was a bit odd, usually I thought if you were being offered a job, they’d like to know what you’re getting and then add a sweetener, and top it off; but Mr Bucknell didn’t.
He just came out and made me an off that I couldn’t refuse, (thank you Mr Puzo ), It was twice plus what I was getting.
I was gobsmacked, (although that expression wasn’t around then) I thanked him and said I’d be happy to come and work for him.. I told him that I was getting married in a few months time, and I’d need 2 weeks off. He assured me that that would be fine.
I also told him I’d have to give the Hartford a fortnights notice, I’d go back and do that straight away, to which he replied, something like ” Mr MacPherson (the manager of the Hartford) is an old friend of mine and I’d like to tell him that I’m taking you away from him” . I told him that if that is what he wanted, then it was fine with me, and we shook hands and I went back around the corner, and slipped into my little nook in the bottom right hand corner of the room. And waited!
I didn’t have to wait long; about 15 or 20 minutes after I got back, Mr Bucknell appeared and walked straight to Mr MacPhersons office, he came out about 15 minutes later gave me a nod, and a small smile and left. And I waited!
All of ten seconds after Mr Bucknell had departed the office, my intercom buzzed, and I was summoned to Mr MacPhersons presence, he was ropeable.
Gave me a blast about loyalty, of which it seems I had none, cowardice of which I seemed to have plenty and so on.
When I got a chance to speak, I told him that I was approached by Mr Bucknell, and after our conversation, Mr Bucknell requested my permission, to call on him as they were friends. I told Mr Mac that as Mr Bucknell was going to be my new boss, and that was what he wanted, who was I to argue, he never calmed down and never forgave me.
Two weeks later I started as assistant claims manager at Harvey Trinder (Vic)Pty Ltd. and was that a revelation when it came to insurance.